On Thursday evening I paid a visit to the Health Insurance Memorial on the Mall in Washington D.C.
When I asked one of the organizers whether the building of this monument had been covered by American television news networks or newspapers, he shook his head.
"So far only a couple foreign journalists have shown any interest in this," he said.
I was shocked to hear this. All Americans should see to this monument. Those who visit it should bring flowers.
Because the Health Insurance Memorial bears witness to a national tragedy of historic proportions -- one that has cost more American lives than any military conflict since World War II.
At this new memorial people can pay their respects to the 44,840 Americans who die annually in the United States due to lack of health insurance. The new monument is located on the Mall between the Washington Monument and the White House.
Several thousand small US flags (each representing 10 deaths) have been arranged in 50 rows -- there is one row for each state. So many people die annually due to lack of health insurance in Texas (5,302 deaths/ 530 flags) and California (4,675 deaths/ 468 flags) that these two rows stretch far beyond the others. Although California has a larger population, thirty percent of Texans lack health insurance -- the highest figure for any state. Texas is where the most Americans die unnecessarily for want of health insurance coverage.
Volunteers have been pounding little American flags into the ground since Monday. As of Thursday night, they still had half a dozen rows of flags left to plant. The exhibit is scheduled to remain until Sunday September 27.
The source for the 44,840 figure (for the number of American deaths caused by lack of health insurance) is Health Insurance and Mortality in U.S. Adults (abstract) published in the current issue of the American Journal of Public Health. It's findings are based on CDC data. A 1993 study, Health Insurance and Mortality, found a 25% higher risk of death among uninsured compared with the insured. Using the more recent CDC data, the Harvard-based researchers found that the uninsured are 40% more likely to die than the insured. This translates to 44,840 avoidable deaths per year.
Study co-author Dr. Steffie Woolhandler told R. Mokhiber writing in Counter Punch:
“The whittled down version that Senator Max Baucus is proposing would leave 25 million uninsured. That translates into about 25,000 deaths annually from lack of health insurance. Absent the $400 billion in savings you could get from a single payer system, universal coverage is unaffordable. Politicians in Washington are protecting insurance industry profits while sacrificing American lives.”The Physicians for a National Health Program, the group that designed the memorial, is calling for a single-payer system -- as is found in almost all other developed countries. They note the following:
- Administrative costs consume 31% of US health spending:
- Half of all bankruptcies are caused by medical bills
- Taxes already pay for 60% of US health spending (the highest health care taxes in the world!).
- The uninsured do not receive all the medical care they need -- they live sicker and die younger.
- The US could save enough on administrative costs with a single payer system -- over $350 billion annually -- to cover all the uninsured.
Pictured in the first and second photos is Jackson Bey, a client advocate with "Health Care for the Homeless" in Baltimore.
See next post.